In a few weeks’ time, the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors will vote on whether or not to consider passing an ordinance aimed at reducing the overpopulation problem in our county’s animal shelters. A spay-neuter ordinance is necessary in Santa Barbara so that we can cut to the heart of the overpopulation problem by requiring that dog and cat owners alter their pets. The city of Los Angeles has already passed such an ordinance and it makes sense for Santa Barbara to follow suit.

L.A. Spay-Neuter Bill

In February of this year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a tough spay-neuter bill into law, making Los Angeles the largest municipality in the United States to require the sterilization of most domestic pets. The ordinance passed the Los Angeles City Council by a vote of 14-1. “This ordinance, which contains clear guidelines and enforceable penalties, creates a valuable tool to take this city another step closer toward eliminating the unnecessary euthanasia of animals,” said Mayor Villaraigosa in an official City Hall press release.

The spay-neuter ordinance will require all pet owners in the City of Los Angeles to have their cats and dogs (four months of age and older) spayed or neutered, unless otherwise exempted because the animal competes, serves as a rescue or service animal, or unless the pet is a registered breeder.

Mandatory Spay-Neuter for Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County’s overflowing shelters are evidence that we have more dogs and cats than our residents want or can take care of properly. The best solution to this problem is to cut down on unwanted pets by preventing them from being born in the first place.

The draft ordinance being circulated in Santa Barbara is a less restrictive version of the L.A. ordinance. The Santa Barbara ordinance would mandate the spaying or neutering of dogs and cats at 6 months of age (not at 4 months, as does L.A.’s version). It exempts all registered purebreds (not just those competing or that have won a title) as well as service dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, herding dogs, and breeding stock for the same. It also has veterinary exemptions for dogs and cats whose health makes the surgery inadvisable.

The ordinance would not impose any additional permits or fees on dog owners who are exempt. Those who breed and sell would have to adhere to minimum standards of care: they would have to have the puppies or kittens seen by a veterinarian, keep all records, not transfer the animal until it is 8 weeks old, and inform buyers of the county’s laws for licensing and spay-neuter policies. Most importantly, the current version of the spay-neuter ordinance would mandate a public/private partnership to raise funds to help low-income pet owners comply.

Will This Be the End to Puppies and Kittens?

It is a false notion that a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance will eliminate all puppies and kittens. According to Spay USA, each day 10,000 humans are born in the United States and 70,000 puppies and kittens are born. As long as these birth rates exist, there will never be enough homes for all the animals.

If these facts and figures are difficult to comprehend, here is a personal anecdote to help illustrate the severity of the problem. I once helped rescue over 300 cats from an 800-square-foot home. The owner had one unspayed female cat and had taken in an un-neutered male cat. A few years later, the house was completely over-run by hundreds of inbred cats. Most of these cats were suffering from illnesses and had to be humanely euthanized. This situation was filmed and televised on Animal Planet in an episode of Animal Cops Detroit entitled “House of Cats.” Had it been mandatory for pets to be spayed and neutered, this unfortunate situation would never have taken place.

What you can do to support the Spay-Neuter Ordinance in Santa Barbara: Email the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors to offer your support of the spay-neuter ordinance:

1st District: Salud Carbajal, Chair,

2nd District: Janet Wolf,

3rd District: Brooks Firestone,

4th District: Joni Gray,

5th District: Joseph Centeno, Vice Chair:

By supporting a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance, we can lessen the amount of homeless animals warehoused in shelters. Let’s help Santa Barbara become part of the solution!


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